Baybayin Styles & Their Sources

Although it is commonly believed that each province in the Philippines had its own ancient alphabet, Spanish writers of the 16th century reported that the practice of writing was found only in the Manila area at the time of first contact. Writing spread to the other islands later, in about the middle of the 1500s. For this reason, the Spaniards usually called the ancient Filipino script "Tagalog letters," regardless of the language for which it was used.

The baybayin script, as it is known today, fell out of use in most areas by the end of the 1600s. In the 19th century, historians gathered old samples of baybayin writing from various sources and locations and assembled them in charts for comparison, noting the source location or language of each specimen. Most of these same historians came to the conlcusion that all the variations in the letter shapes were due to the tastes and writing styles of the idividuals who wrote the original specimens and not due to regional differences. In other words, there was only one baybayin. But, in the 20th century many writers copied the comparison charts into their school textbooks with little or no explanation attached. Thus most readers were led to believe that each sample of writing was a different alphabet according to its title in the chart.

There was actually much more variation in the handwriting from one individual to the next, even within the same geographical region, than there is in this chart of supposedly distinct alphabets. Compare this chart to the examples of baybayin writing on the pages, The Baybayin as Written by Filipinos and Baybayin Handwriting of the 1600s. (Read more about baybayin variants in the main article.)

This is a chart of some baybayin forms and the original source of each. They are sorted chronologically and grouped by their familiar region names but they are not distinct alphabets from different regions or languages; they are only variations of typestyles and handwriting. There are details for each below.



Source Information

Doctrina 1593

From the Doctrina Christiana, en lengua española y tagala printed in 1593. The Tagalog text was based mainly on a manuscript written by Fr. Juan de Placencia. Friars Domingo de Nieva and Juan de San Pedro Martyr supervised the preparation and printing of the book, which was carried out by an unnamed Chinese artisan. This is the earliest example of the baybayin that exists today and it is the only example from the 1500s. The sample shown is my own font based on the facsimile, Doctrina Christiana, The First Book Printed in the Philippines, Manila, 1593. National Historical Institute, Manila, 1973. 2nd printing, 1991.

Chirino 1604

From Relación de las Islas Filipinas by Pedro Chirino, published in 1604. The sample shown is from Relación de las Islas Filipinas, The Philippines in 1600. Manila [Historical Conservation Society], 1969. The letter A may have been printed backward, so I have reversed it for this chart.

Lopez 1620

From Libro a naisurátan amin ti bagás ti Doctrina Cristiana... written by Francisco Lopez in 1620 but bearing the publishing date of 1621. This example was scanned from the chart in Dr. Ignacio Villamor's La Antigua Escritura Filipina (1922) p. 103. See Baybayin Variants for more information about this typeface and Final Consonants for information about Lopez's modification of the baybayin.

Méntrida 1637

From Alonso de Méntrida's Arte de la lengua Bisaya-Hiligayna de la isla de Panay, 1637. Méntrida's font has been listed in some charts as the Visayan alphabet.  However, like other early Spanish writers, Méntrida considered all the variant letter shapes to be part of one Philippine script. He wrote the following about his typeface:
It is to be noted that our Bisayans have some letters with different shapes, which I place here; but even they themselves do not agree on the shapes of their letters; for this reason, and because of the limited types available, I have shown the characters according to the Tagalogs. B12

This sample was taken from the web site Promotora Española de Lingüistica (PROEL,, bisaya3.gif) It was probably based on a chart by Juan R. Francisco in his work "Philippine Palaeography" in the Philippine Journal of Linguistics, special monograph 3, 1973.

Ezguerra 1663

From Domingo Ezguerra's Arte de la lengua Bisaya en la provincia de Leyte, 1663. According to William H. Scott, the letters that Ezguerra recorded "contain what are probably engraver's errors–for example, the use of a marginal check mark normal to Spanish usage of the time, to represent two different letters of the alphabet". (Scott, 1994, p.95) These were probably the alternate forms of the A and the I/E and possibly the alternate form of the Da. There was no character for Ya. I have moved the alternate I/E into that position. The other alternate letters are not shown here. This sample was also  taken from the web site Promotora Española de Lingüistica (PROEL,, bisaya3.gif) It was probably based on a chart by Juan R. Francisco in his work "Philippine Palaeography" in the Philippine Journal of Linguistics, special monograph 3, 1973.

Benavente 1699

From a 1699 manuscript by Fr. Alvaro de Benavente, Arte y Vocabulario de la lengua Pampanga, cited in Kapampángan or Capampáñgan: Settling the Dispute on the Kapampángan Romanized Orthography (2006) by Michael Raymon M. Pangilinan. This is probably the source of the Kapampangan example of Sinibaldo de Mas. (See below)

San Agustín 1703

From Gaspar de San Agustín's Compendio de la lengua Tagala written in 1703 and published in 1787. The sample shown was scanned from Pre-Spanish Manila, A reconstruction of the Pre-History of Manila, by Jesus T. Peralta & Lucila A. Salazar. National Historical Institute, Manila, 1974. 2nd printing, 1993. p. 78. Reproduced from Cipriano Marcilla y Martín's Estudio de los antiguos alfabetos Filipinos, 1895

Hilario 1962

From the unpublished book Bayung Sunis (1962) by Zoilo Hilario of the Akademyang Kapampangan. Although this style was based on historical examples, it was actually Hilario's own personal handwriting style. The sample shown here is from a photograph by Zoilo Hilario in Kapampangan Writing: A Selected Compendium and Critique by Evangelina Hilario Lacson (1984). Many thanks to Michael Raymon M. Pangilinan (a.k.a. Siuálâ ding Meángûbie) for providing the source information.

Hervás 1787

From Saggio prattico delle lingue con prolegomeni e una raccolta di Orazioni Domincale in più di trecento lingue e dialetti, 1787 (Practical examples of languages with prologues and a collection of the Lord's prayer in over 300 languages and dialects) by  Lorenzo Hervás y Pandura. Because this book was not written specifically about the Philippines or Philippine languages, I believe that the type style is taken from an earlier source. It most closely resembles Ezguerra's typeface of 1663. The sample shown here is my own font. It was based on two Austrian books that reproduced Cebuano text in this font, Illustrirte Geschichte der Schrift (The Illustrated History of Writing) by Karl Faulman, 1880 and Sprachenhalle (Hall of Languages) by Alois Auer, 1847. There was no letter for Wa; the U/O character was used instead in these documents. The R sound was represented by the letter Da in Bisayan words and the La character was used for Spanish words. The scans of these documents were provided by Mr. Wolfgang Kuhl.

Jacquet 1831

From Eugène Jacquet's "Notice sur l'alphabet Yloc ou Ilog" in Considérations sur les alphabets des Philippines, 1831. The sample shown here is a reconstruction of two low resolution scans of a chart by Juan R. Francisco in his work "Philippine Palaeography" in the Philippine Journal of Linguistics, special monograph 3, 1973. His chart, in turn, was based on examples in a book by Pardo de Tavera, Contribución para el estudio de los antiguos alfabetos filipinos. The scans were downloaded from two web sites: Alibata at Pandesal by Terrio Echavez ( pilipino.jpg) and Promotora Española de Lingüistica (PROEL, Some examples from David Diringer's The Alphabet, A Key to the History of Mankind (Third edition, 1968. p.298) were used to reconstruct the blurred images of the scans. Diringer's source was Fletcher Gardner's Philippinne Indic Studies of 1943.

Enrile 1835

From Carácteres antíguos con los que escribian estos Naturales del Tagalog y Camarínes (Ancient characters with which these natives of the Tagalogs and Camarines used to write"), the Pascual Enrile collection 18 of the Biblioteca del Museo Naval in Madrid. (ms. 2287, doc. 32:214-214v.) Photocopy provided by Dr. Malcolm Warren Mintz.

Mas 1843

From the chart by Sinibaldo de Mas y Sans in Informe sobre el estado de las Islas Filipinas en 1842 Vol. 1. Madrid, 1843. All of the examples by Mas were copied into Pedro Paterno's chart Cuadro Paleografico (1890). These examples are from the reproduction of Sinibaldo de Mas' chart in William Henry Scott's Barangay, Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, 1994, p. 214.

Main Baybayin Article
The Baybayin as Written by Filipinos
Baybayin Handwriting of the 1600s
Cuadro Paleografico


Paul Morrow
11 November 2002
Last updated on 7 April, 2011